Healthful Eating and Physical Activity in the Home Environment:
Results from Multifamily Focus Groups
A new study from the University of Minnesota provides insight into the importance of family member interactions and the home environment on health behaviors. The study focused on three topics: challenges to healthful eating and physical activity in families, family successes with eating healthfully and being physically active, and suggestions for eating healthfully and being physically active in families.
The research team conducted 10 multifamily focus groups to explore family members’ perceptions of risk and protective factors for healthful eating and physical activity. A total of 103 family members ranging in age from 8 to 61 years participated in the focus groups. Family members were split evenly by gender and were primarily black (48%) or white (41%). About one-third of focus group participants were parents, 29% were children between the ages of 8 and 12 years, and 31% were children between the ages of 13 to 18 years. With an average family household size of 4 people, the majority of families had low household incomes with 79% of families reporting an annual household income of $30,000 or less (35% of families reported having annual income of $15,000 or less).
Ten themes summarize the most prevalent focus group content.
• Time constraints – parents’ and children’s busy schedules interfered
• Accessibility – cost, location, season, neighborhood safety
• Stage of youth development – more challenging to find ways for adolescent family members to be active versus younger children
• Individual investment – individuals must be personally motivated to eat healthfully and be physically active
• Family investment - healthy choices are supported when families have rules about television time, playing videogames and participating in health behaviors together
• Family meals and activities – meals and activities where all family members are involved
• Parent modeling – influences both healthful eating and physical activity
• Making health behaviors fun – enjoyment increases the likelihood of families eating healthfully and being physically active
• Family lifestyle – make healthful eating and physical activity part of the family’s routine
• Community investment in family health – such as garden swap at church
Source – Gayle Coleman, Nutrition Education Program Specialist